For the April 2017 issue of BookMusings, Marta Rusek interviews Nancy Learned Haines, author of QuakerBooks & More bestseller Approved! and We Answered With Love.
What inspired you to write We Answered With Love?
We Answered With Love has been an ongoing project for more than fifteen years. In 2001, my husband, David, and I acquired a large collection of letters from an antiquarian bookseller who offered us the the letters because they had “Quaker content.” David carefully sorted the letters and put them in chronological order, and I transcribed them. As we worked, we constantly interrupted each other with, “Listen to this,” and shared passages that caught our attention. We soon realized that Leslie and Mary had a story to tell, and they told it in a new and exciting way. Their letters captivated us both. We fell in love with this couple. Getting immersed in researching the background and context for these letters at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) archives and other libraries helped me realize that their lives could be interesting and inspirational to others.
What do you hope Friends will come away with after reading your book?
This is both a history of the first project of the American Friends Service Committee and an inspiring, lively biography of two people who rose to the challenge of responding in wartime. Their lives illustrate alternative ways of answering the call – going to the front line to directly relieve the suffering caused by the war and engaging in active political protest and working to change the laws. Their striving to find a balance between their approaches to, and understanding of, service is an inspiration in our own discernment of how to relieve suffering.
Who are your favorite writers, Quaker or otherwise?
Lately, I have been fascinated by novelizations based on the lives of real women – Quaker Sarah Grimke, Beryl Markham, Isak Dinesen, Hadley Hemingway, and Mrs. Einstein (Mileva Marić). I also devour detective fiction, including that by Quaker author Edith Maxwell. On a more serious note, I like Philip Gulley, John Shelby Spong, Madeline Engle, and Marcelle Martin.
Where do your ideas for books come from?
I like writing for and about Quakers. My husband and I have an obsessively large collection of books and materials by or about Quakers. We have a lot of manuscript and early published biographies that I have been toying with.
I recently published a children’s book about spiritual discernment, Approved! A Story About Quaker Meeting for Business. My husband and I served as mentors for our meeting’s children’s meeting for business, and this story was written to help them learn Quaker process. The book has recently been translated into Spanish by a Friend from Cuba, Kenya Cassanova Sales, after she used it with the children in her meeting. Aprobado! was published in March of this year.
What are you working on now?
I truly enjoy the research part of the process. I am exploring writing biographies of early Quaker women, possibly for middle grade readers. There are few stories about these women available to children, beyond Margaret Fell, Elizabeth Fry, and Susan B. Anthony. I am especially fascinated by women who traveled in the ministry in the early 1700's. Most of them are unknown with limited material about them or written by them – an exciting opportunity to imagine their lives in a novel.
But for now, I am in the process of preparing for our upcoming move from Massachusetts to North Carolina and trying to publicize We Answered With Love.